Lately a friend and I have been talking business. Working through several mindsets that have been holding me back. Its been good to change my thinking for the truth. I was listening to a podcast with Derrick Kinney and although I had heard the phrase adding value before for some reason it struck me in a different way. How does my art add value and how can I make it add value in the world? I know that it is valuable and that is a first step in making it forward, but how do I add value to people’s lives with it? Its been a great question to ponder, because I really want to be able to sell my artwork and make money from it. I don't want to be in this financial place that we have been for almost the past ten years. So, I’m challenging myself how to I add value to people’s lives with my artwork?
Dark and rainy days always remind me of Ireland. While I didn’t think that Ireland would stick with me as strongly as it did I like to think of it as a heritage, I feel like somehow I came of age there and stretched out my wings for the first time.
The rain brings its own enchantment whether there or here, I’m wondering where my wool slippers are hiding, wishing for a wood stove again, and thinking of what latest treat could I bake for my family. These desires are a stark contrast to the fresh lilacs on my counter and my little boy wearing his favourite shorts; pineapples and parrots on a blue background. We were just at the beach a few days ago.
Its not autumn yet, but the rain brings up some important questions that I’ve been asking myself. What is the culture I’m building with my family and what is the culture that I want to share with others? It feels like we’ve been in this transition phase of our lives for so long my husband and I. I’ve been packing recently with two intentions: 1- that hopefully we will move out of the apartment soon, and 2- giving ourselves more space as we lay some things down in our lives. With the arrival of a second child on the way comes the requirement to set some things aside for a time as we enter a new season. There is much to build still as the family grows and we change and find ourselves in hopefully a more permanent house and as we search for what’s next. But tonight, it’s still rainy and after I make tonight’s dinner of bbq meatballs with veg, I’ll make a sourdough gingerbread as an ode to the rain.
A friend sent me photos that she had taken of me and my son on a recent outing. She has a background in photography as well, so I was interested in the way she took her photos. Whether or not you believe it, the way you make art often reveals something about yourself that you don’t tell others. Every photo she sent was taken from a far off distance. This friend in particular has always kept me at a distance. Sometimes I even wonder why we are friends because she reveals nothing about herself. Another friend that I had in grad school struggled with feelings that she was inadequate and not enough. Her paintings were often exploding with every colour and shape. It was often overwhelming to look at. There was no place to rest.
It’s an interesting thing to think about that may make you think about your own work and what does it reveal about yourself?
Looking for a space
It took me so long to find my voice in school. For years I could emulate many things, explored different kinds of art, but it was only in my last year of grad school that I really started hitting on something that just clicked. I was taking photos like I had wanted to for years and finding a way to bring those delightful textures into a transformation that gave the viewer a similar feeling that I felt. Place really does influence and thats why it’s so good to spend some time abroad or even hopping over to a new city or province that will change the way you think and make. I still photograph in a very Irish style I believe. Dark and moody for the most part. I still haven’t found a place though that the collages came from. Coming back to Alberta and especially Calgary I have found myself looking for a space in which I can express my voice and language. Most photography here is extremely bright coloured, iconic places and wildlife. But maybe it’s all the better to stand out instead of blending in.
I bought some sketchbooks this summer with the focus that instead of trying to draw objects and scenes that I would really embrace myself as the abstract artist I am. Shapes, forms and textures are just something I naturally gravitate towards and I’m looking for my voice in the analog art world. What do I mean by that?
For the past 5 or so years I’ve been focused on digital, while I have no intention of leaving that behind, something within me craves to scratch a mark making tool on a substrate. Perhaps just as a means of expression to move out from the mundane, or even just to get a quick something down on paper.
Being a mother of one soon to be two leaves me with little time and little energy, but I’m determined that I can’t leave that part of myself behind. I look for ways to include it daily with my son, whether it’s teaching him simple observation or encouraging painting with acrylics. Here are some of the photos from my sketchbook recently. Some finished, some unfinished.
This summer I had pledged to make the focus all about art. I bought new sketchbooks with intentions of filling them with more than just words and thoughts, I started drawing and encouraging my toddler to colour and paint everyday with me. This picture is actually a picture that he painted of a lake. He painted it alongside of me trying to give my rendition of a lake for a collage I was making starting with paint and I rediscovered that painting really was over for me. I liked his painting so much better that I decided to put it with this post. So with that in mind I sanded down the plywood I had been painting on and decided I would stop trying to make my voice heard through a language that I had no desire to speak, and that if going back to some forms of art that were considered more traditional, I maybe needed to find a way that I could express myself that wasn’t killing me on the inside. Here’s to the summer.
I’m really thinking about story a lot more these days. My last hike was Ribbon Creek, and while I snapped a lot of shots, and mostly close ups, which are my jam, I really didn’t think about story. And it’s something that I have been thinking what kind of stories do I want to tell, do I want to tell stories? It’s hard sometimes the light works well in the forest, but is garish in other places. I end up culling ( as should you) so many photos that the light wasn’t good and it broke the photo. What about you? Do you like story telling in your images?
Sculpture in photography
I love the sculptural quality, the lines that give so much movement in the the photo. I look for that energy as I’m walking about. A boss once joked that upon hearing my name as Melissa when they hired me that they thought I would be calming like the herb Melissa, but that wasn’t the case. No, don’t look for me if you want calm, still, serene, it just isn’t me. Since I’ve been making art and photos, it’s always been about movement and energy. I don’t know how to not do it. What kind of work do you make? Energetic or serene?
Musings on portfolios and zines
I’ve decided that I need to make a collection of some of the black and white images. Group some photos together to make a portfolio. Sometimes, as I walk through on a hike I’ll usually group those images together, but some of these I might get a good photo here and there, and then a few months later get something that relates. A friend recently inspired me to start getting zines out, and I have to say I’m really fond of the idea. I’ll have to make an email list or something so you can get some prime photos in your hands.
I love taking photos of grass. It’s so expressive and out here in the foothills there’s no lack of grasses. Grasses take well to photography in both winter and summer. There’s always something that shapes it into something interesting to look at. I need to get outside. It’s been too long and I can’t wait for the weather to warm up. What will you do first when we get out of the polar vortex?